By the Way

A Difference !
In asking leave to introduce a Bill to make provision with respect to Military Service in connection with the present war, the Prime Minister (Mr. Asqnith) stated that there were various grounds of exemption. To quote his own words, he said : “The second is, he has persons dependent upon him, who, if he were called for active military service, would not be able to maintain themselves in comfort or in decency at home.”—Official Report, Vol. 77, No. 1-10, Col. 958.

During the Second Reading stage of the Bill Mr. Asquith sought means to justify the distinc­tion that was made between married and un­married men. Turning to ancient history he cited the time of Henry V., saying : “The man­ner in which he recruited his army is almost worth while reciting to the House. When the King started on his campaign, one of the most glorious of all British annals, what are the directions he gives to his Lord Derby ? He says : —

Go ‘cruit me Cheshire and Lancashire,
And Derby hills that are so free ;
No married man or widow’s son,
No widow’s curse shall go with me.

Then we read how the instructions were carried out, namely : —

They recruited Cheshire and Lancashire,
And Derby hills that are so free,
Tho’ no married man or widow’s son,
They recruited three thousand men and three.
—Official Report, Vol. 77, No. 1J4, Col. 1659.

Doubtless from the foregoing it is reasonable to assume that sufficient has been quoted to show certain concessions were contemplated by the Cabinet, and were further evidence necessary it could be obtained from a perusal of the whole discussion in the House as recorded in the Official Report, and finally in the Act itself. However, the next step takes one in the direction of the Tribunal, and there we see how Bumble­dom interprets “our plighted word” !

I read that at the Penge Tribunal’s first sit­ting “one of the ‘widow’s son’ cases to which Mr. Asquith referred in one of his speeches came up.”

“A widow, the owner of a small laundry, said that she could not work it without the assistance of her son, for the profits were too small to allow the pay­ment of wages to an outsider. . . He not only collected and distributed the laundry with a cart, but he did more ironing than any two women. The tribunal advised her to find someone else, and suspended the son’s enlistment for three months.”— “Reynolds’s,” 30.3.16.

This break-up of the family life which has been forecasted by anti-Socialists to take place with the advent of Socialism, is here and now entirely falsified. It is capitalism, with its various manifestations, that achieves this mon­strous iniquity of making wives widows, child­ren fatherless, and widows sonless !

One other short extract in this connection, and one which is even more harsh than the preceding.

“At Southwark a clerk applied for exemption on the grounds that he was the “only child” of a “widowed and invalid mother.” He said he contributed 10s. to her maintenance and a similar sum was re­ceived from a benevolent society. The tribunal granted postponement for a month, to enable the man to find someone to look after his mother.”— “Daily Chronicle,” 33.3.16.

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Since the above was written I have come across a short editorial article in another capi­talist paper which tends to confirm my opinion. It says :—

“. . . When Mr. Asquith quoted, in defence of Lord Derby’s “single men first” policy, the line from the ole ballad “No widow’s curse shall rest on me,” most people assumed that widow’s sons, when they were their sole support, would be exempted. As a fact the Act leaves everything to the discretion of the Tribunals, and in many cases widow’s sons are re­fused exemption.”—”Star,” 21.3.16.

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Well-Paid Workers
For several months we have been constantly informed that there never were such times as now for the “working classes.” That wages — such high wages—were so greatly increased that they almost proved a burden to the recipients, and that some of the more fortunate ones were even using £1 notes as pipe lights were among the tales that were told. At the same time as this supposed great accession of wealth came to the aforesaid working “classes” we read of the increased sales of overweight margarine and notice also the usual crop of appeals for funds for soup and blanket tickets, etc., which, somehow, do not seem to fit in with the idea of this ever-increasing wealth which we are informed is finding its way into the pockets of the workers. After all, is it not obvious that with an increase of 40 per cent. in the cost of living, and money wages for the most part the same as they were in pre-war days, there is a general worsening of working-class conditions ? Surely, it is high time our master’s hacks considered the advisa­bility of awarding V.C.’s and Distinguished Conduct Medals to the wives of members of the working class for their strenuous efforts in en­deavouring to spread the scanty wages over the entire week.

However, to get to the appeals for mops and pails to clear up the mess created by capitalism, I notice that the infant mortality rate is about 50 per cent. higher than at the corresponding period of last year.

In East London a movement has been initiated to save the lives of infants, and we are informed that : “Money is urgently needed. Who will help ? Donations,” etc. The appeal goes on to state : “The hope of the world lies with the children,” and yet in the East-end, at 100 Old Ford Road, where a beautiful creche at the “Mothers’ Arms” has risen from an old public house, with a baby clinic and a milk-house, we have to send out the messenger of mercy to care for such as these : —

“Nine children ; husband, labourer ; baby ill for a long time ; came in nursery home for treatment ; much better ; still wants care.
Husband’s earnings 26s. ; five children—youngest twins—one child been very ill with bronchitis and pneumonia ; mother been trying to nurse both ; one now in our nursery by doctor’s orders, to give mo­ther a rest. Mother having dinners and milk ; tries hard to make both ends meet and make the best of everything.
Seven children ; husband was a carman, but now a casual labourer, 26s.; baby been ill—in nursery for treatment.
Husband, casual labourer; four children ; husband discharged from army, medically unfit, after two months’ training ; children no boots, etc. Bought some, and advised getting dinners from school.”

So the list goes, on ; but sufficient has been quoted to show that this idea of the employing class with reference to the alleged increase in the wealth of, and the need for economy among, the workers, is a figment of bourgeois imagination. Economy, forsooth ! Note the words : “Mother tries hard to make both ends meet” ! ! One can imagine how their feelings are outraged when they read posters on the wall advising them to practice economy and “Invest your savings in War Loan” ! ! ! Have our masters and their hirelings lost all sense of proportion ? This interesting document winds up by in­forming us that :—

“Since the war broke out we have spent over £1,000 in milk alone ; succoured some 900 mothers and babies ; given 70,000 meals at the cost price restaurants.”

Such is the glorious heritage of the mass of the working class under a capitalist regime—born in poverty and a greater or lesser struggle against poverty onward to the grave—while those who perform no useful function in society are nursed in the lap of luxury and tire in the deadly monotony of their unceasing round of pleasure.

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Married “Slackers”
After a campaign, directed against the un­married and consequently cheaper variety of recruits, which might aptly be described as the thin end of the wedge, we come to that of the young married men. In this connection I notice one section of the Press is now clamouring for the attestation of “young married men.” All this agitation is to help the manhood of the country to “fight for liberty and freedom with the strength of freemen.” What a spectacle ! With regard to this new campaign I observe from another quarter the following:

“The well-engineered outcry against the “single slacker” is now being followed in the same quarters by attacks on “married shirkers.” By-and-by the classes who have been deluded in turn by the conscriptionists will wake up.”—”Star,” 21.2.16.

I echo the words of this writer that the work­ing class who have been deluded and cajoled will wake up and then turn and rend their his­toric enemy.

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Runciman’s Socialism
At the Conference of organised labour ad­dressed by various Cabinet Ministers a month or two since, I was greatly amused by the reference made by the Rt. Hon. W. Runciman to the part the Government had taken in introducing “Socialism.” The fact that the labour frauds or fools let pass unchallenged his remarks about his interest in Socialism shows how ignorant they are on this subject. At this juncture I want to draw attention to the fact that both sugar and bread have now reached the maximum price since the war. This, quoth the right hon, gent., is Socialism. Could stupidity further go ? No wonder he said “I am always prepared to em­bark on Socialism on those terms.”

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Capitalism’s Casualty List
Owing to the world war many things are pushed on one side to give space and promin­ence to things in connection therewith. This, however, will not prevent me noting that :

“In mines and quarries last year there were 1,338 workers killed, and of the injured 165,150 were dis­abled for more than seven days. . . . They are the more terrible when we reflect that, with reasonable precautions, they could be reduced by about 50 per cent.”—” Reynolds’s,” 3.1.16.

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A Grateful Country
While for purposes of recruiting in the earlier days of the war there was much talk about better provision being made for “our heroes” broken in the war, later events have falsified these promises. Columns of cases of hardship are to be found in the Official Report of Parliamentary Debates. From the Press I will cull one quota­tion :

“A case was reported this week where two heroes had found their way into the workhouse because they were unable to get any allowance from the War Office. It is this sort of thing that does a great deal of harm and in itself is entirely indefensible.”—”Reynolds’s,” 13.2.16


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